Protect your body, not just your legs. Your runs will reward you if you do.

by Dr. Megan Meislin Conti Mica, MD

It’s time to dispel the myth that running is all about your legs. Running engages the entire body in one way or another.  Your arms and legs are connected in a closed link with your core. 

Arms are important for your stride. They provide the counterforce to your legs’ momentum.  Simply put, your arms keep your legs moving in a meaningful forward motion that is stable and balanced.  Weak or stiff, arms can impact the biomechanics of your stride, balance and overall run.

Try “listening” to your whole body on your next run. It is easy to note stiff quads or fatigued calf muscles after a long run.  But now take the time to notice a weak torso that isn’t holding it’s posture, an inability to truly rotate the shoulders to counteract pelvic rotation, or back pain related to poor upper body strength. 

What are the two most valuable ways to improve your arm game? Stretching and strengthening. 

Stretch your arms before and after runs and identify any immobility in your shoulders. Hit up those yoga classes and Pilates sessions.  Strengthening can happen in a myriad of ways but one of the easiest strategies can be found in the gym. Step away from the treadmill and hit the weights. And always diversify your workout. If you make these few changes, you will strengthen your overall body agility and you’ll have more satisfying runs.

Megan Meislin Conti Mica, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine. She specializes in the treatment of adults and children, including athletes at all levels, with injuries or disorders of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.